I have probably read a couple dozen books on running and these five seem to rise to the top of my list in terms of having a lasting impact on me in terms of motivation and inspiration. You’ll notice of the five books below, only 1 is considered technical.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Christopher McDougall) – I was a runner for about 14 years before reading this book and was kind of moving away from running to other fitness pursuits because I couldn’t put in significant mileage because of injuries that kept cropping up. This book brought out the reasons for my injuries – I was a heal striker and the running shoe industry were making shoes that encouraged this type of running. After devouring the book during an international flight across the Pacific, I got jazzed to work and change my running style into more of a mid-foot runner. It took many months of training and trying minimal shoes, but it totally changed my approach to running and after about a 9 year span of not running marathons, I began running marathons again in late-2009 – and have run 7 marathons since. The story in the book is also pretty fascinating and really points out that running is really a very simple sport and spiritual pursuit for many of us. The book is full of eccentric characters, amazing athletic achievements, and provides the secrets of the world’s greatest distance runners – the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons.
Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary FIRST Training Program (Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss) – I’ve followed many training plans and read numerous running books on how to train, but this has been the most influential on how I train today. The theories in the book have been tested and proven, and as advertised, you can in fact run less and run faster. I’ve been following the training plans and advice in this book for over a year and have seen my times improve pretty significantly. The book is one of the most detailed, well-organized, and scientifically based training programs for runners. It provides training plans for the 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon. Also, if you are looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon, it provides very detailed plans for every age group. The training program is pretty simple to follow and each week consists of a “3 plus 2” program, with three quality runs (interval repeats, tempo runs, and long run) which are designed together to improve endurance, lactate-threshold running pace, and leg speed. The other two training sessions include cross training workouts, such as swimming, rowing, or pedaling a stationary bike, which are designed to improve endurance while helping to avoid burnout.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Haruki Murakami) – Haruki Murakami is my favorite fiction writer of all time, but this book is a non-fiction account of his thoughts on the long-distance running he has engaged in for much of his adult life. It is highly personal on some levels and speaks to why us average runners continue to grind it out day after day, knowing that we’ll never reach anywhere close to world class running standards. Although Murakami offers little insight into much of his life as a writer, he does provide how running has positively impacted his long and successful career. I think it is a book that talks to many of us mid-packers who are questioned by non-runners as to why we do what we do.
The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life: What 35 Years of Running Have Taught Me About Winning, Losing, Happiness, Humility, and the Human Heart (Amby Burfoot) – Amby Burfoot is an American marathoner, whose peak competitive years came in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was the winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon. After retiring from competition, he became a running journalist and author. Burfoot was the top editor at Runners World for many years and is still associated with the magazine. presents 15 essential life lessons about passion, courage, materialism, failure, regeneration, and more, all learned from experience during more than 35 years of running. In this book, Amby discusses the essential traits of a runner – traits that also are essential for all people wishing to reach their long-term goals. He discusses the writings, music, and quotes that have inspired him throughout his long career. Most important, he explains that winners are not those who cross the finish line first, but rather those who are able to discover more about themselves with every step. This was an inspiring read full of metaphors and outlines many of the peripheral benefits of what running can contribute to your life as we grow older. The book is a small and easy read.
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of and All-Night Runner (Dean Karnazes) – Dean has become a household name having accomplished some incredible running feats where he pushes his body to the extreme. He’s been criticized for excessive self-promotion, but his first book is pretty inspiring outlining the courage he had to one day just make a immediate shift in his life and pursue his dream of making a living by running. After 15 years of not running since quitting his high school team, he resumed running on his 30th birthday with an impromptu all-night, 30-mile trek in his underwear and old lawn-mowing shoes. From there, he discusses his various unimaginable running exploits in a very entertaining book.